Week 9 Assignment
Assignment: Transparency and Public Trust
Misuse of funds is not the only thing that can cause problems with public trust. It is important for any organization that uses volunteers or takes donations to be transparent and accountable to the public. Organizations can take specific steps to assure that they are transparent and accountable in their actions. It is up to human services administrators to provide transparency and accountability for their organizations.
For this Application Assignment, select a human services administrator from this week\’s video. Think of one example of how he or she provided transparency and accountability for his or her organization. Consider steps you as a human services administrator might take to provide transparency and accountability to the public for an organization with which you are associated or one with which you are familiar.
The assignment (2 pages):
Identify the human services administrator and briefly share one example of how he or she provided transparency and accountability for his or her organization.
Explain three steps that you, as a human services administrator, can take to provide transparency and accountability to the public for an organization with which you are associated or one with which you are familiar.
Share an insight you had regarding any differences in the way that you might provide transparency and accountability in comparison to the human services administrator you selected from this weeks video.
Support your Assignment with specific references to all resources used in its preparation. You are asked to provide a reference list for all resources, including those in the Learning Resources for this course. You should include in your references at least two resources included in this weeks resources and at least one outside scholarly resource.
This is the Transpcript for the video:
Transparency and the Public TrustProgram
HOLLY HOEY: We\’re much more under a microscope than other organizations and the private sector. I think that we are kind of scrutinized a little bit more, because we deal with public trusts so much more. And I think all of us would probably agree that without public trusts, we wouldn\’t exist. I mean really, without people trusting in us and our volunteers trusting in us to fulfill the mission, to be a good steward, we wouldn\’t be in existence. So we raise a total of about $34 million from over 100,000 donors. So talking about public trusts, individuals are investing in United Way, giving us their confidential information, their credit card information, and saying, \”I trust in you. I think United Way is the most efficient and effective way to give. Here\’s my money, now I know and I trust United Way what they\’re going to do with it, and they\’re going to help people in need.\”
At United Way, every employee and every board member has to sign a code of ethics. That\’s just to start out. We have to sign a code of ethics every year that basically says that we\’re going to uphold the highest ethical standards with ourselves and with the community. So I think that in terms of public trust and transparency, it\’s something that we hold to the highest standards and it\’s something that we continuously are in front of.
When we talked in the first session about partnerships and collaboration, we collaborate and partner with wonderful, wonderful organizations in this community. And at times, we do events or we do programatic work. And at times, the organization would call us and say, \”Hey, we have an event going. Can we mail out the invitations to this select group of donors?\”
Well something at United Way that we really hold true to our hearts and that we really take pride in, is that when a donor gives us their information that is their personal information. That is information that is confidential and that we feel is served for internal purposes only. Several staff members were very uncomfortable with this. So what we had to do was, to prevent any unethical situations happening, is we had to create a policy that basically says that the information that we gain from donors is strictly for internal purposes. And that really is important, as it pertains to public trusts.
So tell me, what about your organization? How do you maintain that public trust and the transparency?
ANDREA INGRAM: Well, first of all, I really wholeheartedly agree with everything that you said. Your reputation is the most important thing you have. And it\’s one of those things that\’s hard to earn and easy to lose. So, there\’s just nothing more important than maintaining your reputation in the community. And this can actually get to be a fairly technical discussion, because there are a lot of ways that we are accountable, that you are reporting to funders, that you are reporting
to the government. You have Federal 990s; you have monthly financial reports. You have all of these things that are ways and methods of making sure that you\’re doing things right. I think it\’s so important even to avoid–and we hear this in politics all the time–even avoiding the appearance of a conflict or an appearance of any kind of ethical violation.
To me there\’s no compromise on ethics. So you have audits, agencies have annual audits, and still the occasion arises when you do you hear that some agency has misused funds. Or in our community, there\’s been a recent example where an organization hired an executive director without doing proper background checks, and actually hired someone who had some legal issues. And that became a very big matter in the community, and with the government funding, our local county funding. They cut that off and it was in the newspapers. And in a very short time, an organization that just had a stellar reputation, because of one mistake in due diligence, really now had a huge ethical problem. So that\’s why you really need to be vigilant all the time.
HOLLY HOEY: You have to be able to respond to that and say, \”You know what, we want to be as open and transparent as we possibly can be.\” Maurice, tell me about your organization.
MAURICE WILLIAMS: For us, we see the audits, it\’s kind of twofold. So one, of course the legal, financial obligations of our organization to do, in fact, what we say we\’re going to do, which is allocate funds appropriately to the program so that our children will be well taken care of. And then there is the programatic side of transparency where, you said once a year, but try every 90 days. The Department of Human Resources knocks on our door every 90 days to look at our files, foster parent files, employee files, client files, to look to see if in fact we are providing these services to these children like we say in our contracts that we will do.
Are you seeing them weekly, are their medical appointments kept up to date, are these foster parents who you say are the cream of the crop and they can take care of other people\’s children are they certified appropriately? And so we are reminded every 90 days that we have a job to do. And we must do it with the highest level of integrity and ethics, because we\’re taking care of other people.
HOLLY HOEY: So Andrea, talking about ethical violations, do you have any examples of that, and how you prevented it in the future and how you kind of managed through that.
ANDREA INGRAM: I\’ll tell you one of our challenges because of the nature of our agency. In our building, we have two shelter programs, an 18-bed men\’s shelter and a 33-bed family and women\’s shelter. So we are living with the people that we serve. And they can stay up to a year and a half. So that creates a lot of familiarity between staff and residents. And so you might not think of boundary
issues as an ethical issue, but they are. You have to have some kind of balance. You don\’t want it \”us and them,\” you because we\’re all human beings, and we all share this space. But we have different roles.
And what can happen if a staff person becomes too familiar with a resident, then you start slipping into things like favoritism, or breaking the rules for somebody. So boundaries are important, but they\’re also very challenging to maintain. We had one of our residents who left and who had done a really great job. And he gave myself and two other staff people, to whom he felt very grateful, he gave us $100 restaurant gift certificates. \”Well isn\’t that nice?\” But, we can\’t accept that. At the same time, we also understand where his generosity is coming from. But, it is not an ethical thing to accept a personal gift like that. So with his permission, we pooled our three gift certificates to have a luncheon for all of the shelter staff.
So I suppose there could be a place or an agency where somebody might say, \”Well isn\’t that nice, and I\’m going to go to treat my family to a $100 dinner.\” So when you have a kind of an agency where you are working intensely with people for a long period of time, I think one of the significant ethical challenges are boundary issues. And how do you maintain proper boundaries without being stiff, without being distant.
MAURICE WILLIAMS: We had an issue where one of the support people who help foster parents, and was actually the closest person to foster parents and their issues, in terms of she was a mouthpiece for the agency with foster parents. It became a little gray after a while, because then one time, we found out that she had actually divulged some information that she didn\’t think was harmful, but it actually was, because it was confidential information about another client. A week goes by, and all of the foster parents know about this particular issue.
Now, were we upset with the staff person; of course we were. She was a very vital part of the organization, but for some reason, she just couldn\’t see how that particular crossing of the boundary played out negatively for us in regards to client confidentiality. And so in those relationships with the foster parents, staff has–they have to be very aware that they\’re not your friends, you\’re there for a service. So in speaking with boundaries, those are important types of situations that can come out in regards to our ethics.
HOLLY HOEY: It\’s critical. And I\’ve seen organizations where they\’ve had a breach of contract or trust in that organizations can fail, and because they didn\’t handle it the right way. I think it\’s critical that if there is an ethical situation that it\’s how you respond and how transparent you are from the beginning, and how you rebuild trust with your donors. And as you were saying, that it can take years and years to build trust, and one situation for that trust to go away.
It really is about integrity, trust, and building those solid relationships; being fiscally responsible to donors, to the board, to your volunteers, to be as
transparent as you can, to communicate is important, the results of your work. And what you were saying is, \”If you say you\’re going to do it, you do it.\” So I think that this conversation is really the essence and the foundation of our work. And without it, we would not be in existence.